The world is a chaotic and confusing place. Could advanced artificial intelligence help us make sense of it? Well, possibly, except that today’s “artificial intelligences” are not exactly what you’d call sophisticated. With a couple of hundred virtual neurons (as opposed to 16 billion neurons in the human brain), the neural networks I work with can only do limited, narrow tasks. Can they digest a list of CNN headlines and predict plausible new headlines based on what they’ve seen? No, but it’s fun to watch them try.

Thanks to Rachel Metz and Heather Kelly of CNN Business, I had a list of 8,438 headlines that have appeared on CNN Business over the past year. And thanks to Max Woolf’s textgenrnn, I had an algorithm that could learn to imitate them. In most of my previous experiments I’ve let neural networks try to build words and phrases letter by letter, because I like the strange made-up words like “indescribbening” and “Anthlographychology”. But to give the neural net a better chance of making the headlines grammatical, I decided to have it use words as building blocks. It could skip learning to spell “panther” and “cryptocurrency” and focus on structure. It helped. Sort of.

Early on in the training, it kept generating headlines that were completely blank. This was either a very nihilistic view of world affairs, or its calculation that a space was the most likely (occasionally a headline would just be: “The”). If I told it to be very very daring, then it would finally use words other than “The” in the headlines, generating things like:

Instagram of Suddenly
Its iPhone Look it
Facebook Wind
11 Fake Tesla My People
Million do Regret
Supermarket Disney New Label Signature Company: Why
Cordray to the SpaceX Coal Administration Africa Jared Internet Big the Talks
to Pizza Videos

(I added the capitalization). After much more training (about 30 min total on a fast GPU), it grew confident enough to use actual words more often. It had learned something about business as well.

Why the Stock Market is Trying to Get a Lot of Money
The US China Trade War is so Middle Class
Bank of the Stock Market is Now Now the Biggest Ever
The Best Way to Avoid Your Money
How Much You Need to Know About the New York City
How to Make a New Tax Law for Your Boss
The Stock Market Market is the Most Powerful Money
Goldman Sachs is a New Super Bowl
Facebook is Buying a Big Big Deal
Why Apps in the Country
5 Ways to Trump on Chipotle Industry is the Random Wedding
Premarket Stocks Surge on Report of Philadelphia Starbucks Starbucks Starbucks

One curious pattern that emerged: companies behaving badly.

Walmart Grilled With a New Leader in Murder Tech
Coca-Cola is Scanning Your Messages for Big Chinese Tech
Amazon Wants to Make Money Broadcasting from Your Phone
Should I Pay My Workers
Amazon is Recalling 1 Trillion Jobs

My favorite headlines, though, were the most surreal.

Star Wars Episode IX Has New Lime Blazer
Mister Rogers in Washington
Black Panther Crushes the iPhone XS and XS Max Max
How to Build a Flying Car Car
You Make Doom Stocks
The Fly Species Came Back to Life
India Gets a Bad Mocktail Non Alcoholic Spirit
How to Buy a Nightmare

I talk a bit more about AI and creativity in this CNN article.

And that’s all the news for today - now it’s time for cake! Yes, I will now share with you two fine* recipes generated by a neural net trained solely on cake recipes: “Cargot Puddeki Wause Pound’s Favorite Ice Cream: Plant Tocha” and “Three Magee Coffee Cake”. To get them, become an AI Weirdness supporter!

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